ROHNERT PARK, California- “I want the president to know that, when he raises a glass of wine, the immigrants are making it … so that he can drink his glass of wine – every day,” said Noe, a grape-picker living in Sonoma after emigrating from Jalisco, Mexico.
This quote is from one of the many undocumented farmers who work the fields of Napa and Sonoma Counties. This is not particularly uncommon to the area, as many of the nation’s farm hands are immigrants or undocumented workers. But without them, the nation would starve.
With current delays for citizenship sometimes lasting 13 years, and the barriers to be eligible often very strict, many families, primarily Latino, end up working our farms across the nation.
With fundamental immigration reform on Washington, D.C.’s agenda and more political momentum behind the cause than has been in some time, now seems to be the time to make the final push for this much needed change, according to almost all parties involved.
Stories of children reaching through border fences to see their mothers, or the countless other heart wrenching stories of families being split by deportation or the waiting list for citizenship have created a sense of national awareness. Presenting a unique political window of opportunity for immigration reform, NGOs, business interests and other activists are involved to push through a comprehensive piece of legislation.
Hypocrisy and Stalemate
Both these terms walk hand in hand with most Americans thoughts of the current congress, and the overall culture in Washington, D.C. Patience for the charades and ineffectiveness have worn thin in many. This is no different for the affected workers of the wine industry in Napa and Sonoma counties, and the few leaders of the wineries that are transparent about this issue, and are fighting for reform
The wine industry caters to a high end market, and successful wineries, of which there are quite a few in both Sonoma and Napa counties, do quite well. Yet as all successful business or any model for that matter, there must be a foundation that holds it up, this can certainly be argued is embodied by the immigrant worker for the wine industry, much like many of the United States Agricultural industries.
Mirroring the growing national discontent on political inaction, both counties have experienced increasing public outrage by grassroots organizations and coalitions of farm workers and winery owners. Many statewide rallies and demonstrations over the past year have been organized in an effort to capitalize on the political moment.
California is one of the primary agricultural states in the union and has some of the largest Latino and estimated undocumented populations. In addition, it is historically a leader of state level social progressive policy, and the wine industry is perhaps the flagship agricultural industry of the state.
Immigrant workers of the wineries hold a powerful and possibly very influential role in this situation. If the trends of social activism and organization around the topic of immigration reform continue in the wine industry, according to some, they could play a pivotal role in the push for a comprehensive reform bill.
Much work is left to be done by those fighting for the dream act and ultimately a modern system of borders and free immigration, much like financial capital enjoys in today global economy. Yet highlighting the fact that this fight finds itself at a pivotal moment, and even more understanding of the nuanced and complex solutions that are on the table, is most certainly needed.
– Tyler Shafsky